By Eugene McIntosh @stayhumble
With no CJ McCollum and Yusef Nurkic in the lineup, Damian Lillard knows he has to step his game up even more. "I have a lot of responsibility to get the job done without CJ & Nurk. It's more about managing the game and trusting G.T. (Gary Trent Jr.) and Ant (Anfernee Simons) and allowing them to grow by sacrificing."
Trent Jr. scored 18 points (6-14 FG/4-10 from 3) and Simons 8 (3-10 FG/2-6 from 3) but #VideoGameDame hit 8 3's, dropped a 44 pack (including 6 in the last 8 seconds of the game) and the game winning #3BallCornerPocket as time expired to give the Portland TrailBlazers a 123-122 win over the Chicago Bulls at the United Center.
"He never quits and no matter how far we're down he always thinks we have a chance to win," said Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.
"I knew it was going in when he shot it...he's Damian Lillard," said guard Gary Trent Jr. on Lillard's buzzer beater. After Zach Lavine was trapped and tied up in the corner with 6.2 seconds left & the Bulls up 2, Trent Jr. beat Lavine to the punch on a jump ball. Lillard got possession and put up a side step 3 over Lauri Markannen (who led the Bulls with 31 points) that was nothing but bottoms.
Lavine didn't think it was a jump ball at all. "It was a quick whistle. I didn't think it was a jump ball. I didn't think they had their hands on it." He did note that a team shouldn't lose that game up 5 with 11 seconds left. Lavine scored 26 points but had 6 turnovers (including the most crucial T.O. of the game that led to the Lillard game winner) and is the first player since Elton Brand in 2000 to have at least 6 turnovers in 3 straight games.
Billy Donovan thought it was a quick whistle for the jump ball but knows his team has to come away with a W. "It was about as quick of a jump ball as I've ever seen. I could've helped a little by calling a timeout to advance the ball. Listen we've gotta be stronger in those situations. I've got great respect and admiration for him (Lillard) but it was less about him and more about us." Portland scored 26 points off of 15 Bulls turnovers.
Thaddeus Young was 2 points from his first ever triple double as he finished with 8 points/11 assists/11 rebounds. Coby White had 20 points/6 assists.
Enes Kanter scored 22 points and grabbed 11 boards for the Blazers and coach Stotts called him "the most consistent guy on the team this year." I asked Kanter about the praise from his head coach after the game.
"It means a lot man! Listen this is my 10th year in the league and I've played for 8 different head coaches. Coach Stotts means a lot to all of us and he's definitely a difference maker. He's the kind of coach that tells you what you need to hear not what you want to hear. To me man I get my confidence from my teammates and from my coaching staff. Especially today...it was a tough day for me because today is my dad's birthday and 8 years ago I remember it was the first time my dad came to watch me at this arena (United Center) when I was playing for the Utah Jazz. (In Turkey, Kanter's dad was charged as a member of a terrorist group, arrested and detained for 5 days before he was released. His dad is free now but he hasn't seen him in 7 years) Me & coach talked a little bit before the game and he showed me the video that I posted on IG (https://www.instagram.com/p/CKr1HpHAcaH/) and one thing about coach is he cares. I wanted to win this game for my dad and for all the innocent families and dads in Turkish jails. But yeah I think I get my confidence from my teammates from my coaching staff so that definitely means a lot to me."